Bruno marchal writes:

> Even if it is presented as good for society, the child may accept that > because of feelings of empathy for others.

OK. Note that such an "empathy" is hard wired in our biological constitution. Many mammals seems to have it at some degree. Some form of autism are described by pathological loss of that empathy. Perhaps Stathis could say more.

Autism, psychopathy and psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia can all involve a loss of empathy. It is sometimes said that autistic children lack a "theory of mind" so that they can see others as being like themselves, with a similar view of the world to themselves. As they grow up, they realise intellectually that other people are like them but it seems that they lack the intuitive grasp of this fact that non- -autistic individuals have. People with schizophrenia can develop a blunting of affect, which perhaps is a different process but can have the same effect. They may be able to compare their feelings to when they were well and may say things like, "I can longer feel things like I used to, I know I ought to feel happy when others around me are happy and sad when something sad happens, but I feel nothing, I just register the facts". Psychopaths are different again in that they usually have a full range of affect, understand that others may suffer as they do, but don't care and can't understand why they should care, other than to keep the legal authorities happy. Young children are all psychopathic: they refrain from behaving badly only because they might get punished. As they grow up, they internalise the "good" and "bad" behaviour paterns so that they seem to have these characteristics intrinsically.

Autism and schizophrenia are almost always dysfunctional conditions, but intelligent psychopaths often do very well, in business and politics for example, because they can lie and manipulate people without compunction. In fact, they often seem unusually charming and likable when you first meet them, because they have learned to act the way that will best serve their selfish purposes. It is conceivable that an entire society of psychopaths might be able to function with rules of conduct similar to the moral rules that most normal societies live by, but arrived at in a practical and dispassionate manner. That is, thieves are punished because it is expedient to do so in the same way as it is expedient to take an umbrella with you if expecting rain, and saying "theft is wrong" is like saying "rain is wrong".
Stathis Papaioannou
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